Coronavirus (COVID-19): Stay at Home, Stay Informed

By Ashley Jones

As communicators, we know the power that words carry. We understand that when used correctly, words have the inimitable power to inform and inspire. But, we know all too well, when used carelessly, words can have just as much of a dangerous impact.

“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday.

During this time of confusion and distress, we want to provide our members with information and resources from media outlets we trust most.

A Message from PRSA National

A massive amount of COVID-19 related information is being delivered to all of us from hundreds of sources at an unprecedented pace. The role of public relations professionals as advocates for truth, accuracy and transparency in accordance with the PRSA Code of Ethics is integral to our daily practice but especially crucial in times of crisis.

Current circumstances offer an opportunity for us to be part of the solution. Our expertise can help drown out the din and assist communities in deciphering facts from fiction. The World Health Association (WHO) says there is an “infodemic,” and with the abundance of information comes the danger that this could overwhelm people to the point they begin to tune out just when they most need to be informed.

PRSA and the PRSA Health Academy believe the best work we can do is to simplify the process and direct people to reliable, credible information resources. As a result, they’ve created the INFOdemicRx infographic (below) that depicts a simple, three-action-steps guide to help consumers and communities find the information they need amidst conflicting claims, hype, misinformation, disinformation and information overload.

Where to Get Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the PR Industry

Stay Connected: Webinars to Tune Into

  • PRSA Health Academy Section
    • You’ve Got This! Build a Social Media Presence to Align Message with Market
      • Tuesday, March 24, 2020
      • 3PM ET
      • Register here.
  • PR News
    • Communicating About COVID-19 — Navigating a New and Uncertain Crisis
      • Wednesday, March 25, 2020
      • 1PM-2PM ET
      • Register here.
  • Ragan and PR Daily
    • Crisis Communications Virual Conference: Managing Communications Through Coronavirus
      • Tuesday, March 31 2020
      • 11AM-4PM ET
      • Register here.
  • PRSA
    • Principles of Effective Crisis Response
      • Available now. Access here.

How Brands in the ‘Burgh Are Coping

1. Steel City – #renegadewash Challenge











2. Smith Brothers Agency – #TogetherApart











3. Pittsburgh Penguins & Aramark – Donation of 2,000 lbs. of perishable food items from PPG Pains Arena to 412 Food Rescue











4. Bigham Tavern – Wingsday at Home











5. 412 Food Rescue – Call for surplus food to distribute to families and children in need











6. Eat’n Park – #DailyDoseofSmiley










7. Primanti Bros. – Partnership with Giant Eagle











What Kind of Content Do YOU Want to See From US?

Let us know what information, tips, or other encouraging content we can share that would be most beneficial to you.

Email us or DM us on any social media platform.

Man standing in the righthand-side of the frame in focus wearing a medical mask holding the strap on a subway with other riders behind him out of focus.

Effective crisis communication during outbreaks depends on authenticity, not hope

By Jeremy Church
[Originally published by WordWrite]


Today’s rapidly changing information cycle can either be a cure for bad news or make it worse.

In the case of an epidemic (or likely pandemic) like the coronavirus, this type of instant access merely feeds the public’s need for more details.

Yet misinformation during a crisis is sometimes more prevalent than the facts, which — along with science — are increasingly under attack, not just in this country but also around the globe.

Consider the results of a Feb. 27 survey from 5W Public Relations that found 38% of beer drinkers would no longer buy Corona under any circumstances and 16% didn’t know whether Corona beer is related to the coronavirus.

Hold my lime-infused beer.

What the world needs now is … facts

We need accurate, timely updates to help us make informed decisions about how countries, governments, businesses and individual citizens should react and respond to a serious global crisis like this one.

It’s not a coincidence that the regimes that are the most oppressive and least transparent in terms of sharing information (i.e. China and Iran) have been among the hardest hit by the virus. Getting essential facts about the illness in the hands of health care workers and increasingly worried citizens is critical. That can’t happen if government institutions are more concerned about protecting their reputation than keeping people safe.

The two best fact-based resources to understand widespread disease and public health threats in real time are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Both have detailed summaries of the current crisis on their websites, here and here. Each also has prevention strategies that include basic precautions similar to what is recommended to guard against the common cold or flu.

The reality is the WHO believes a coronavirus pandemic is near. (As I write this today, the WHO has yet to categorize coronavirus as such only for semantical reasons you can feel free to explore here.)

According to the CDC, coronaviruses are common in people and animals. Some early patients in China were connected to a large seafood and live animal market. But other patients reportedly did not have exposure to animals. Person-to-person spread has now been reported outside China, including in the United States. Increasingly, new locations have seen“community spread,” meaning some who are infected are not sure how or where they became exposed.

It’s a fluid situation, as doctors currently struggle to determine how many are ill and what the mortality rate is. Thus far, most deaths have been confined to the elderly and those with underlying health issues. Most people are expected to experience only mild symptoms.

Those are the facts, but anything more I write today specific to the coronavirus will be dated tomorrow. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t use our current situation as a litmus test for what needs to happen when we next encounter a deadly strain of disease — because it will happen again.

What coronavirus reminds us about ALL crisis communications

At WordWrite, we handle about a dozen crisis situations per year. We’re in the middle of two right now.

In our experience, there are four main types of crisis:

  1. Acts of God
  2. Acts of man
  3. Acts of God, made worse by man
  4. Acts of man, made worse by God

An epidemic or pandemic would be an example of an act of God, made worse by man. It’s made worse by man, literally, in the way we unintentionally pass disease to one another. From a crisis communications standpoint, it’s also made worse by man if the information isn’t conveyed promptly and accurately.

Most crises are predictable. This one is not. That doesn’t mean you can’t prepare. Hope is not a strategy.

We trust our doctors and scientists to develop a vaccine and help curb the spread of infectious diseases. It also turns out we should also listen to them when it comes to communicating during a crisis, because they follow a similar playbook to one we’d recommend at WordWrite.

Many of the suggestions offered by the CDC in the midst of the bird flu outbreaks that began more than 20 years ago are still relevant for any government or business leaders today.

  1. Show empathy.
  2. Suggest an appropriate action to take.
  3. Show respect.
  4. Communicate information clearly and quickly.
  5. Stick to the facts.

Similarly, the WHO’s Pandemic Influenza Risk Management Guidance from 2017 offers a straightforward, no-nonsense assessment of what an effective strategy should contain, including “processes to collect, develop and distribute information in a timely manner, and procedures to ensure that formats are appropriate to the target audiences. The strategy should take into account behavioural [sic] aspects of how people react to, and act on, advice and information they receive, not only from authorities but also from sources such as mass and social media. Public understanding of hazards and risks is complex, context-dependent and culturally mediated.”

When communicating in any crisis, these elements win

Both the CDC and WHO are referring to what we at WordWrite would describe as the three critical elements to creating an effective story behind your crisis response: authenticity, fluency and engagement.

We would label these as the building blocks to uncovering, developing and sharing your Capital S Story — why anyone would buy from you, work for you, invest in you, partner with you, etc. In the case of a crisis, this story answers the question of why anyone should trust and believe what you’re saying.

You must always start from a place of truth, sharing the factual perspectives of those working in your organization to incorporate their viewpoints on an important topic, which, in this case, would be a rapidly evolving public health issue.

Next, you engage these expert storytellers to share their assessments because they are the most qualified to inform and educate the public on a particular subject. They are not always the president or CEO of a company or leader of a country. This approach helps dispel myths and reduce concerns about corporate or political agendas driving the communications strategy.

Finally, if — as the WHO argues — the public’s ability to understand risk “is complex, context-dependent and culturally mediated,” then we must consistently measure the engagement level our target audiences have with the messages we share during a crisis.

Today’s modern communications strategies often ignore the characteristics the WHO describes — deep human experiences rooted in biology and shared culture.

The cure for a crisis of communication

Constant noise blurs the lines between belief and facts. “Fake news” is part of the lexicon. Digital clutter is a virus of its own.

Effective storytellers are hard to find, especially in a crisis. People who are reliable and relatable in their ability to communicate their knowledge of your organization and the issues impacting your audiences are at a premium. Identify them and let them do their jobs.

Any crisis has heroes and villains. Public skepticism of government institutions is at an all-time high. Your business or organization doesn’t want to function from that kind of reputational deficit.

Operating from a crisis playbook built upon the principles demonstrated in your Capital S Story can build trust as well as keep your people informed and safe.

In an epidemic or pandemic, the only real bad guy should be the actual disease.

Looking for help with your own crisis communications plan? WordWrite offers Crisis Training as part of its Chapter Series training sessions.

Woman with bowl of popcorn and TV remote control

Which commercials were Super Bowl stand-outs? PRSA Pittsburgh board members weigh in

By Stacey Federoff
Web Content Manager

Sure, the Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV on Sunday night – but on to the more important part of the annual football spectacle: Commercials.

The NFL’s “Big Game” draws an audience of more than 100 million people, with Fox Corp. charging as much as $5.6 million for 30 seconds, according to the Wall Street Journal’s review of the ads.

Nostalgia and humor were major themes – prominent in spots from the likes of Walmart, Cheetos and Mountain Dew – as AdWeek and Ad Age both noted in their round-ups of the commercials.

USAToday’s Ad Meter rated the two presidential campaign ads from Democrat Michael Bloomberg and President Donald Trump that aired during the game with the lowest scores, along with Pop Tart’s “Fixed The Pretzel” spot.

PRSA Pittsburgh board members shared which commercials they thought stood out from the rest, and there were some clear favorites:

Google’s “Loretta”


It was a simple, moving way to demonstrate how their voice search works. 

Dan Ayer, vice president

I think Google did a great job with showcasing an illness and turning it into a sentimental moment with the power of technology. It definitely was a heart-wrenching segment to watch, but Google’s concept was one that caught everyone’s attention as soon as it aired.

Mallory Manz, programming co-chair

I loved this commercial because of its emotional impact. The man in the commercial was suffering from memory loss and used his phone to help keep the memory of his wife Loretta alive. I believe Google’s ad showed the benefits of AI but did it in an intimate and touching way to help make the concept relatable to the average consumer, especially older consumers. The ad also helped to show the different functionalities of AI and how it doesn’t need to be something we are afraid of but instead can help us when we cannot help ourselves.

Taylor Fife, social media co-chair

Google recently dealt with some major reputational blows due to news of its not-so-great internal culture. Tech brands at large aren’t regarded as particularly likeable, relatable or human. Google seemed to challenge those notions with their Super Bowl commercial “Loretta”. They turned the product into a long-term friend for an aging man. It made me cry, even as a major skeptic of their company. It was just a very smart position for the brand, especially if they have sights on the senior market with the upcoming “Silver Tsunami.” I’m in the senior living industry and can tell you this got a lot of buzz in my circle.

Morgan McCoy, Renaissance Awards co-chair

Hyundai’s “Smaht Pahk”

One of my favorite ads was the Hyundai “Smaht Pahk” ad. I thought it was clever and funny, plus really nailed the message of the feature of the car. I think the brand did a nice job engaging on Twitter before and after it aired, too. Where they fell short though, was they didn’t have much going on on Instagram and TikTok. When I looked, they had no stories or current posts (it was from earlier in the day), so I think they could have created longer conversations if they extended it into other social channels, because that’s where people are also engaging during the game.

Deanna Tomaselli, young professionals co-chair

Jeep’s “Groundhog Day”

This year, I noticed a lot of the ads used celebrities as influencers. While some of them were funny, they missed the mark because the underlying “so what” was missing. Two ads stuck out to me: Google’s “Loretta” commercial with its heart-warming story about an elderly man trying to remember his wife, and Bill Murray and Jeep’s Groundhog Day commercial — but that might just be because I’m a big fan of Bill Murray!

Robin Rectenwald, secretary

One of my favorites was Jeep’s  Groundhog Day commercial. It was super timely since it aired on Groundhog Day, and memorable because of its humor and pull from a movie many people are familiar with. Due to the movie sequence, it had a classic, familiar face and showed how the product made a huge difference in Bill’s everyday life – (nothing is worse than trying to copy something without having the original person, am I right?!) He had a huge smile on his face getting up every day at 6 a.m. to face that #JeepLife! They teased it on social, so they were able to stretch their content over a few days and start their conversation early, which may or may not have drawn in viewers to check out their full-length commercial.

Kariann Mano, member services chair

BONUS: Jeep posted a longer “Director’s Cut” version on YouTube

Cheetos’ “Can’t Touch This”


I loved the Cheetos “Can’t Touch This” commercial. It’s been years since Cheetos has debuted a Super Bowl commercial and this year was perfect timing with it being the 30th anniversary of “U Can’t Touch This”. It was hilarious and clever to mix the product’s universally known “Cheetos fingers” (which Cheetos executives recently announced is officially referred to as “cheetle”) dilemma with M.C. Hammer’s catchy ’80s hit. It was fun, catchy, relatable and (dare I say it?!) cheesy in the best way.

Ashley Jones, communications chair


For even more discussion from Pittsburghers about the Super Bowl commercials, Steve Radick, sponsorship lead, served as a guest on the Pittsburgh Current’s podcast, which you can listen to via audio platforms or as a YouTube video.

He calls Post Malone’s appearance in Bud Light Seltzer’s ad “delightfully self-aware” and talks with Bethany Ruhe, associate publisher and co-founder at the alt-weekly, about the best ads that bring together culture, product and insight.

Acrylic awards on display table onstage at 2020 Rennaissance Awards

2020 PRSA Pittsburgh Renaissance Award Winners: The Complete List

PRSA Pittsburgh Renaissance Awards Honor the Year’s Best in Communications

Top Hat and Red Havas win Best in Show for Perfect Scores; PPG’s Bryan Iams Inducted into PRSA Pittsburgh Hall of Fame

On Thursday, Jan. 30, nearly 250 of the region’s most talented communicators, marketers and public relations professionals gathered at the Pittsburgh Playhouse to celebrate the PRSA Pittsburgh Renaissance Awards presented by Red Havas.

John Chamberlin and Rachael Rennebeck, hosts of the YaJagoff!!! Podcast, emceed the annual ceremony, which honors the best of the year’s communications campaigns, tactics and individual practitioners.

PRSA Pittsburgh distributed 87 awards to local agencies, corporations and nonprofit organizations. Impartial judges from the PRSA Western Michigan chapter reviewed the entries. Campaigns included work on some of the most recognizable brands such as Bruster’s Real Ice Cream, Duquesne Light Company, Highmark, Pittsburgh International Airport, I.C. Light Beer, Peoples Natural Gas, PPG Paints, Primanti Bros., S&T Bank, VisitPITTSBURGH and many more.

Bryan Iams, PPG VP of Corporate and Government Affairs, was honored with the Renaissance Hall of Fame Award; while John Pepper, Director of Communications and Marketing at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, received the Communicator of the Year Award.

Top Hat and Red Havas took home Best in Show for their campaigns which received perfect scores from the judges.

In addition, the PR community paid tribute to Markowitz Communications and Veritas Communications Advisors for their crisis management work for the Tree of Life tragedy.

PRSA Pittsburgh thanks its generous sponsors: BCW, Covalent, EM Media, Point Park University School of Communication, Red Havas, StudioME and WordWrite. See the complete list of winners below.

2020 PRSA Pittsburgh Renaissance Award Winners

Renaissance Individual Awards

  • Hall of Fame – Bryan Iams, PPG
  • Communicator of the Year – John Pepper, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy
  • PR Team of the Year – VisitPITTSBURGH
  • Rising Star Award – Stacey Federoff, Point Park University
  • PR Entrepreneur of the Year – Aire Plitchta Reese, Aire Reese Consulting
  • PRSA Member of the Year – Brian Ackermann, Red Havas
  • PRSSA Chapter of the year – Waynesburg University
  • Bob O’Gara Student Scholarship – Nicole Tobias, Waynesburg University


B2B Campaigns

Renaissance Awards

  • Red Havas, Costa: Kicking Plastic in the Optical Industry
  • Red Havas, Transitions Academy, Light Years Ahead
  • Red Havas, Transitions Change Agents
  • Red Havas, Transitions Signature GEN 8 Launch
  • WordWrite & Foothold Studios, New Pig Launches National Safety Month Program to Recognize the Country’s Safest Floors and Workspaces

Award of Merit

  • BCW, Joining Forces with a Global Powerhouse to Benefit the Small
    Business Owner
  • Red Havas, Leveraging Industry Best Practices from the Transitions Innovation Awards

Content Marketing

Renaissance Awards

  • Brunner, The Home Depot Rental 2019 Content Marketing Campaign
  • Top Hat, Reclaiming the Light Beer Throne in Pittsburgh
  • WordWrite & Foothold Studios, New Pig Launches National Safety Month Program to Recognize the Country’s Safest Floors and Workspaces

Award of Merit

  • Brunner, G4A 2019 Content Strategy

Crisis Communications

Renaissance Award

  • Markowitz Communications and Veritas Communications Advisors, Tree of Life: Effectively Managing a Multitude of Crisis Communications Challenges and Issues Involving the Deadliest Anti-Semitic Attack in U.S. History


Renaissance Awards

  • Pipitone Group, Peoples Natural Gas – Let’s Talk Energy: Construction Heat Digital Campaign
  • VisitPITTSBURGH, Pull Up a Chair. You are Welcomed Here!

Award of Merit

  • Pipitone Group, Presbyterian SeniorCare Network, Careers with Heart Recruitment Digital Campaign


Renaissance Awards

  • BCW, Experiencing the Evolution of Color with the PPG Paint Brand
  • Gatesman, #BALovesPittsburgh: Launching a Nonstop Flight from Pittsburgh
  • Red Havas, Transitions Academy, Light Years Ahead

Award of Merit

  • Gatesman, The Second Annual MBA Summit: Committing to Conversation to Position Michigan Ross for Success
  • Think Communications, Inc. & Primanti Bros., Love at First Bite

Influencer Relations

Renaissance Awards

  • BCW, Experiencing the Evolution of Color with the PPG Paint Brand
  • BCW, Bank of America and Apple Pay Tap Their Way to Social Media Success
  • Brunner, FY19 Musselman’s and Lucky Leaf Influencer Campaigns
  • Mindful Kreative, The Arthritis Foundation’s “Get A Grip on Arthritis” Influencer Campaign
  • Red Havas, Transitions Change Agents (BEST IN SHOW)

Awards of Merit

  • BCW, A New View of Influencers and Office Depot: Influencer Campaign
  • WordWrite, XO, KB: Influencer Campaign Turns Customers into Friends

Integrated Marketing Campaign

Renaissance Awards

  • BCW, Leviton Load Center: Every Circuit Tells a Story
  • Gatesman, Increasing Customer Satisfaction for Duquesne Light Company by Putting the Customer First
  • Gatesman, If Nobody Gives, Nobody Gets: Moving the Needle on Organ Donation

Awards of Merit

  • Brunner, Bruster’s Real Ice Cream 30th Anniversary IMC
  • Senator John Heinz History Center, Destination Moon Integrated Marketing Campaign
  • Top Hat, Reclaiming the Light Beer Throne in Pittsburgh

Media Relations

Renaissance Awards

  • Gatesman, Capitalizing on a Monumental Milestone to Hijack Headlines
  • Red Havas, Costa: Kicking Plastic in the Optical Industry
  • Red Havas, Curiosity Cube® Ignites Passion in STEM
  • Red Havas, Leveraging Industry Best Practices from the Transitions Innovation Awards
  • WordWrite, Landing the Whale: Attracting Higher-net-Worth Financial
  • WordWrite, From Negative to Positive, Caliente’s Stories Resonate with Pittsburgh Community and Beyond

Awards of Merit

  • BCW, Heading Back-To-School Proud with Office Depot and Mario Lopez – National Media Relations
  • BCW, SAE International Steps Forward to Advance Safe Performance, Testing and Development of Autonomous Vehicles – National Media Relations
  • Brunner, Bruster’s Real Ice Cream 2019 Media Relations
  • Field General, 814 Day
  • Highmark Inc. PR Team, Highmark “War on Opioids”

New Products and Services

Renaissance Awards

  • BCW, Making Office Depot Worth the Extra Click and Trip – New Product and Service Communications
  • BCW, Leviton Decora Smart Voice Dimmer: Breaking Through the Noise
  • Red Havas, Transitions Signature GEN 8 Launch
  • Top Hat, Reclaiming the Light Beer Throne in Pittsburgh
  • WordWrite & Foothold Studios, New Pig Launches National Safety Month Program to Recognize the Country’s Safest Floors and Workspaces

Awards of Merit

  • BCW, Leviton Load Center: Every Circuit Tells a Story
  • Pipitone Group, Peoples Natural Gas – Let’s Talk Energy: Combined Heat and Power Campaign

Regulated Communications

Renaissance Awards

  • Beyond Spots & Dots, Pittsburgh Fire Fighters: Fire Ops 101
  • BCW, A New Day for an Old Retailer

Reputation Management

Renaissance Awards

  • Gatesman, Overcoming Negative Perceptions of Pace’s ADA Paratransit Service Through Education
  • South Fayette Township, South Fayette Community Day
  • Top Hat, Reclaiming the Light Beer Throne in Pittsburgh

Awards of Merit

  • Pittsburgh International Airport, Pittsburgh International Airport Launches Blue Sky News
  • Red Havas, Curiosity Cube ® Ignites Passion in STEM
  • WordWrite, From Negative to Positive, Caliente’s Stories Resonate with Pittsburgh Community and Beyond

Social Media

Renaissance Awards

  • Gatesman, Now #Trending: S&T Bank’s Name That Lange Campaign
  • Senator John Heinz History Center, History Center Shoots for the Moon with #MoonBox Campaign

Award of Merit

  • Top Hat, Reclaiming the Light Beer Throne in Pittsburgh

Student Campaign (NEW CATEGORY)

Awards of Merit

  • Point Park University, COR Carnival – Game for the Gift of Life
  • Waynesburg University, Comm 3:1 Campaign



Renaissance Awards

  • Brunner, The Home Depot Rental Stop Motion Video Series
  • Gatesman, Carts are a lot like Hearts: Connecting Social Norms to Organ Donation
  • Pipitone Group, Presbyterian SeniorCare Network: Uniquely You Recruitment Videos
  • Pittsburgh International Airport, A Perfect Place for Presley
  • Top Hat, Reclaiming the Light Beer Throne in Pittsburgh
  • WordWrite & Foothold Studios, New Pig Launches National Safety
  • Month Program to Recognize the Country’s Safest Floors and Workspaces

Award of Merit

  • Pipitone Group, Peoples Natural Gas – Let’s Talk Energy: Combined Heat
    and Power Videos


Renaissance Awards

  • Think Communications, Inc. & JDRF Western Pennsylvania, 27th Annual Promise Gala
  • Top Hat, Reclaiming the Light Beer Throne in Pittsburgh (BEST IN

Written Content

Renaissance Awards

  • WordWrite, Redefining Earned Media in 100 Words, The Pittsburgh 100

Awards of Merit

  • BCW, Behind the Curtain: Realizing the full Potential of Additive Manufacturing Requires Leadership not Wizardry
  • Top Hat, Reclaiming the Light Beer Throne in Pittsburgh
  • WordWrite & Foothold Studios, New Pig Launches National Safety Month Program to Recognize the Country’s Safest Floors and Workspaces

It’s almost time to celebrate: what you need to know for the 2020 Renaissance Awards

By: Robin Rectenwald

It’s hard to believe that 2020 is already here, especially since we’ve been planning the PRSA Pittsburgh Renaissance Awards since February 2019.

With less than 30 days to go until our biggest event of the year, I can’t express how excited I am for this year’s awards. January 30th will be a special night where nearly 200 local communications and marketing professionals will celebrate their achievements. We had nearly 30 companies submit more than 100 entries, the most PRSA Pittsburgh has had in years. We are grateful for your support and enthusiasm for our event and we can’t wait to showcase your hard work in just a few weeks.

Joining us will be John Chamberlin and Rachael Rennebeck, hosts of the humorous YaJagoff Podcast, to serve as the Master of Ceremonies for the evening. Don’t worry, they won’t poke too much fun at us. In fact, John has been a long-time supporter of PRSA, so we’re excited to be working with the rising duo.

As you gear up for the night of celebration, here’s what you need to know regarding this year’s event.


Because the networking portion will take place in the lobby of the Pittsburgh Playhouse, we have a limited number of tickets. Please be sure to purchase your tickets early as we anticipate selling out. We ask that you purchase your tickets no later than Friday, January 24.

Tickets are available here.

We won’t have tables available for purchase since the awards ceremony will take place in a traditional theater, but we do have ticket bundles available.


If you haven’t been to the Pittsburgh Playhouse, here’s your chance! It’s a magnificent performing arts center located in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh. What better place to showcase the most creative marketing campaigns?

Be sure not to confuse the Pittsburgh Playhouse with its old location in Oakland. This year’s Renaissance Awards will take place at the new Playhouse located at 350 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.


Street parking is free after 6 p.m. or there are plenty of spots available in the Market Square Garage (228 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222), less than two blocks away from the Playhouse.


With so many smart and creative minds in one room, we hope to leave plenty of room for networking before and after the awards ceremony. Because we have a lot of awards to hand out, we hope to start the ceremony at 6:30 p.m. sharp. Be sure to arrive early if you want to grab something to eat and drink in advance. Here’s the tentative schedule of events for the evening:

  • 5:00 p.m.: Doors open at Pittsburgh Playhouse (350 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222)
  • 5:00 – 6:30 p.m.: Networking, drinks and hors d’oeuvres
  • 6:30 – 9:00 p.m.: Renaissance Awards ceremony (no food or drink in theater)
  • 9:00 – 10:00 p.m.: Networking, coffee and dessert
  • 10:00 p.m.: After Party at Forbes Tavern (310 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222)

WHAT’S ON THE MENU (we promise, it’s delicious)

Thanks to the staff at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, we’re excited for this year’s menu, which includes vegetarian and gluten free options:

  • Carving Station
  • Pasta Station
  • Cheese and fruit place
  • Hot Hors d’Oeuvres
  • Cold Hors d’Oeuvres
  • Gourmet coffee and desserts
  • Wine and beer bar (each ticket holder gets two free drinks)


Reward your hard work and Renaissance wins with a cocktail (or two). Join us at Forbes Tavern to continue the celebration!

Our After Party is sponsored by StudioME, a user-friendly space for media creation in Pittsburgh. From first-timers to professionals, StudioME offers user-friendly studio spaces, equipment rentals, editing workstations, and custom production services for all media creators. The StudioME model was created with the challenge to deliver high quality content using brand new approaches to an outdated, over-priced model.

We’ll be sure to share any other event updates as they come in. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly at

See you on January 30th!

A New Decade, A New Board of Directors

Under the strong, committed leadership of president Ben Butler, 2019 was a fantastic year for PRSA Pittsburgh, with tons of new faces, engaging programming and professional learning experiences ready to be channelled in the new year. PRSA Pittsburgh is thrilled to announce the official 2020 Board of Directors!

“I take a look at the goals we set out to achieve in 2019 and I’m thrilled because we’ve accomplished all of them,” says Ben Butler, APR, 2019 PRSA Pittsburgh President. “The 2019 board was one of the most cohesive, motivated, and fun groups I’ve had the pleasure to work with. Thanks to their efforts, we’re heading into 2020 with momentum, great leadership, and another rockstar board.”

The 2020 Board boasts an exciting mix of PRSA Pittsburgh veterans along with eager young professionals. This balance promises to foster new ideas and perspectives while having the experience necessary to carry them successfully to fruition.

Proposed and finalized by the PRSA Pittsburgh Nominating Committee, we welcome:

  • President | Jordan Mitrik, Brunner
  • Vice President | Dan Ayer, Field General
  • Secretary | Robin Rectenwald, WordWrite
  • Treasurer | Darcey Mamone, NAMI 
  • Assistant Treasurer | Brian Ackermann, Red Havas           
  • Immediate Past President | Ben Butler, APR, Top Hat

  • Communications Chair | Ashley Jones, Beyond Spots & Dots
  • Social Media Co-Chair | Taylor Fife, Manchester Bidwell Corporation
  • Social Media Co-Chair | Megha Pai, WordWrite
  • Web Content Manager | Stacey Federoff, Point Park University
  • Multimedia Lead | Alex Grubbs, Point Park University
  • Multimedia Committee Member | Nick Jones, Point Park University
  • Website Lead | Ben Butler, APR, Top Hat
  • Member Services Chair | Kariann Mano, Red Havas
  • Programming Co-Chair | Jesse Serra, rue21
  • Programming Co-Chair | Mallory Manz, Carlow University
  • Renaissance Awards Co-Chair | Alex Oltmanns, Pipitone Group
  • Renaissance Awards Co-Chair | Morgan McCoy, Touchtown
  • PR Summit Co-Chair | Nathan Petrillo, NeighborWorks Western Pennsylvania
  • PR Summit Co-Chair | Lily Whorl, Red Havas
  • Young Professionals Co-Chair | Deanna Tomaselli, Red Havas
  • Young Professionals Co-Chair | Catherine Clements, Red Havas
  • Accreditation Lead | Ben Butler, APR, Top Hat
  • Public Service Lead | Kristen Wishon, Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council
  • Student Liaison | Camille Downing, Point Park University
  • Sponsorship Lead | Steve Radick, BCW Global

A Message from the 2020 President

“For PRSA Pittsburgh, 2019 was filled with high-energy events and engaging members. As we turn the page to 2020, I look forward to continuing the legacy set forth by previous Chapter leaders while creating new opportunities for our members with my fellow board of directors,” said Jordan Mitrik, 2020 PRSA Pittsburgh President. “There has never been a more exciting time to be a communications professional, and we are committed to creating a community in Pittsburgh you feel proud to be a part of. Cheers to a new board, a new year and a new decade!”

Diversity Chair Position Still Open!

It’s not too late to join the 2020 Board! We’re still looking to fill our revived Diversity Chair position. We welcome fresh ideas for fulfilling the role and anticipate that the Diversity Chair will be highly involved across every aspect of PRSA Pittsburgh communications, events and member relations. Communications and PR professionals of all identities and seniority levels are encouraged to inquire or apply at!


We look forward to an exciting year of propelling Pittsburgh PR forward!

Peloton Ad Still Has Everyone’s Heads Spinning

“A Peloton?!”

Little did Peloton know that the ad that began with this simple exclamation would spark a global controversy. By now you’ve either seen or at least heard about Peloton’s recent holiday blunder. The 30-second commercial titled, “The Gift That Gives Back,” has stirred both controversy and mockery among audiences. From comedic spoofs and outrage over perceived sexist and classist undertones to the company’s stocks falling, the spot has generated conversation and results that the Peloton brand didn’t anticipate.

“We constantly hear from our members how their lives have been meaningfully and positively impacted after purchasing or being gifted a Peloton Bike or Tread, often in ways that surprise them,” a Peloton representative said in a statement Wednesday.

“Our holiday spot was created to celebrate that fitness and wellness journey,” the statement said. “While we’re disappointed in how some have misinterpreted this commercial, we are encouraged by — and grateful for — the outpouring of support we’ve received from those who understand what we were trying to communicate.” – The New York Times

Peloton’s efforts to convey a relatable fitness journey, while admirable and surely made with the best intentions, missed the mark. But what was it about this ad specifically that struck such a cord? There was the backlash regarding the husband’s demeanor, the camera angles, the facial expressions of the “Peloton Wife.” But it was more than that. The ad didn’t feel genuine, it didn’t evoke inspiration or pathos. It was…well, awkward.

Here are some thoughts from Deanna Tomaselli and Ashley Jones:

What did you think about the ad?

D.T.: When I first saw it while watching TV before all the uproar, I thought they missed the mark and it was corny. Especially compared to last year’s holiday ad where the husband buys the bike for his wife and secretly uses it for himself (there’s one where the wife buys for the husband, too.) Clever! Then I saw the online reactions and just laughed. Do I think it’s sexist? I wouldn’t go that far; I would say it’s simply a bad ad.

A.J.: I saw the ad before seeing any of the online commentary and opinions, and my immediate response was “Oh man, this makes me cringe.” And I wasn’t cringing because I was offended in any way, the ad was honestly just laughable to me. I didn’t think it would receive this kind of negative attention, particularly surrounding sexism. The claims about the husband being abusive are a stretch. It simply lacked a powerful, resonating message.

What would you have done differently?

D.T.: If they want to follow her journey, I would have changed it to her buying it herself. That changes the dynamic. It’s her choice and her journey.

A.J.: I think if they wanted to stick with a “gift giving” theme it would have been more powerful to have a story behind WHY she wanted one. Did she have a health scare that warrants the need for more exercise? Is she fulfilling a lifelong dream to run a marathon and this will help with training? Does she have a beloved friend or sibling who she used to exercise with that now lives far away, but the bike enables them to work out together again? Some kind of storyline would have at least helped us as an audience root for her and detract a lot of this “sexism” talk.

What do you think makes this ad resonate so awkwardly with audiences?

D.T.: Peloton ads have always been kind of a joke (just take these memes). This one though, she just looks terrified. It’s a home workout for crying out loud! No one will see you. Plus, the way she is Instagram storying (so it looks like) is just weird.

What’s important to recognize, is that Peloton is an aspirational brand. The bikes and treads are certainly not cheap, so clearly, they are trying to reach a target demo, which I think always comes across in their messaging and advertising. I think people took this TOO far and should have kept it more fun, like the memes above. I also liked Peloton’s response since I would have been disappointed as well. All in all, I think people are making too big of a deal about this, but Peloton should get called out because the ad is bad. But, I would still like a bike. 😊

A.J.: I think it was how overly dramatic the entire commercial was. It was difficult to feel inspired by an already in-shape woman talking about her (for some reason?) scary, at-home journey to…being more in shape? On her incredibly expensive stationary bike? The actress’s facial expressions were distracting and the script was just so over-the-top. I’m not bashing the fact that this woman is healthy and wants to push herself to be the best, but it’s just not hitting home the message I think Peloton wanted to.

Don’t get me wrong, I love an ad that causes a stir because interesting conversation and perspectives ensue. The response to this was reminiscent to me of the polarizing effects of Gillette’s “The Best Men Can Be” ad. However, Gillette’s ad had purpose, a timely and powerful message. This just lacked authenticity.

Tell us – what were your thoughts on the ad?


Thanks to our 2019 PRSA Holiday Party sponsors!

For 2020 Planning, Be a G.R.I.N.C.H.

Originally published in MediaPost

By: Jordan Mitrik


Everyone has heard “Don’t be a Grinch!”

That’s a phrase that resurfaces every year — plastered on ugly Christmas sweaters and holiday party invites — referencing the iconic yet mean-spirited titular character in Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

If someone calls you a Grinch, they’re insinuating you’re a grump or killjoy. No one wants to be a Grinch.

But a G.R.I.N.C.H. is an entirely different matter.

As you build strategic 2020 recommendations for your brand (or brands), use this time of year to assess the current landscape and how you — as a digital marketer — can enhance the overall experience for customers at every touchpoint.

Here’s how.

[G]et a grip on data analytics.

Everything we do is driven by data, which is able to deliver valuable insights that can inform planning, the user experience and more. Make 2020 the year you collect, manage and better analyze data to help understand customers’ behaviors and adjust your approach based on that insight. If you commit to supporting data analytics in marketing, you’ll make better optimizations and recommendations that should increase profits.

[R]efine content through audience messaging tests.

Running an A/B test lets you compare two versions of content with different variables (such as copy or design) that are shown to users to ultimately determine what performs best based upon campaign objectives. If you’re unsure if a “Buy Now” or an “Add to Cart” CTA will deliver a higher click-through rate, test it before the campaign formally launches.

A/B testing allows dollars to be used more efficiently and let you get to know your audience better.

[I]ncorporate influencer marketing.

Influencer marketing is progressively more popular among brands. According to Influencer Marketing Hub’s “Influencer Marketing 2019 Study,” 86% of brands intend to allocate budget to influencer marketing over the next year.

Creating long-term partnerships with influencers outside of a company’s four walls builds third-party credibility, among other benefits.

[N]ail down your content strategy – and stick to it.

Now’s the time to evaluate your content strategy and make refinements to reflect 2020 business objectives. Are there new content types to introduce? Does the publishing cadence need updating? Having a successful content strategy starts with a solid foundation. Answer these questions now to prevent roadblocks later.

[C]reate SEO-friendly content.

For your brand to thrive online, you need SEO-optimized content favoring Google’s algorithms and boosting search rankings.

Are you conducting keyword research to see what your audience is searching? Adding backlinks to older content? Mature plans by including an SEO strategy.

[H]ave a mobile-first mindset.

According to Facebook data, people are consuming content 41% more on mobile versus desktop. When brainstorming and producing content — whether it’s videos, landing pages or e-newsletters — create a user experience with mobile in mind.

Get in the 2020 spirit by being a G.R.I.N.C.H. You’ll find yourself on your brand’s nice list.


Thanks to our 2019 PRSA Holiday Party sponsors!

Disney+, Mr. Rogers and Black Friday – Great tactics, Powerful Messaging and a Few Tips

By: Ashley Jones

The arsenal of “Lizzie McGuire” and “That’s So Raven” episodes are at our fingertips, Tom Hanks is portraying a Pittsburgh legend and Black Friday sales are right around the corner. Easy to suffice it’s been a hell of a time for some great PR—let’s take a closer look:

Photo by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash

Disney+ & Netflix/Nickelodeon

Let’s be honest, Disney+ could’ve offered just their theatrical animated features and we would still have chomped at the bit. While these films are enough of lure in their own right, Disney used the data at their fingertips to effectively utilize the assets they already have.

“More than 80 percent of streamers are either Millennials (ages 18-34) or Gen X (35-54). That means that the two biggest demographics for Disney+ will be people who have children and those who grew up in the ‘90s and ‘00s.

That’s why, for its early days, Disney is emphasizing nostalgia. They’re bringing back classic Disney Channel originals like “Motocrossed” or “Brink!” while putting their next “Star Wars” story exclusively on the platform. And for the children of these generations, they’re including classic cartoons and Pixar movies.” – PRsay

Millennials feel strongly about the pinnacle of childhood television occurring in the 90s. Despite being a no-brainer, it was nothing short of genius for Disney to appeal to their core demo with the shows and movies their targeted audience grew up loving and haven’t gotten to indulge in for years. In fact, Nick at Night had already found similar success by airing beloved 90s cartoons and shows like “Kenan and Kel” and “All That” after a certain time on the channel. Speaking of Nickelodeon, anyone else hear about their team up with Netflix? Thoughts?

Artwork by ALICIA KACHMAR | Photograph by Jayna Janelle (JJ Crochet)

“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”

How could one not be excited about America’s dad portraying America’s role model? “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” has stirred up excitement since its production was announced. The film stars Tom Hanks as the one and only Fred Rogers and was filmed quite literally in our neighborhood.

While the life and legacy of Mr. Rogers in one to be celebrated in its own right, the timeliness of this film’s debut shouldn’t be underestimated. The last few years have been tumultuous in terms of politics, crime and bias, from immigration laws and environmental issues to sex scandals and gun control. Right now, everyone could use a little bit of that genuine Fred Rogers magic to remind us we’re all human and all deserving of kindness and respect.

Yes, Pittsburgh is a sports town that bleeds black and gold. Yeah, you can’t commute anywhere without crossing at least one bridge. So we might say “yinz” and pretend it’s just as grammatically sound as “ya’ll.” And, yes, we revolutionized the culinary industry by putting fries on our sandwiches and salads. But, maybe it’s time for Pittsburgh to be known for something bigger, especially while the nation’s eyes are on us through the lens of Mr. Rogers. Perhaps this is Pittsburgh’s moment to lead by example and demonstrate what being neighborly truly means.

Black Friday

Next week is already Thanksgiving which means Black Friday is right around the corner. It’s the ultimate weekend for procrastinators to catch up on holiday shopping without the usual harsh reality of a one-day shopping spree.

So, should your brand partake? If so, how do you make sure you’re not just another company shouting percentages at potential consumers?

First, be realistic and commit. If you’re going to offer Black Friday incentives make sure they’re worthwhile and beneficial to both you and your target audience.

This article from Square offered a few great ideas to help your brand’s Black Friday marketing cut through the clutter. If your company is a small locally-owned business, we liked these tips in particular:

  • Find your hook
    • Limited-edition, local or handmade items customers can only get at your store? Promote those!
  • Team up with other small businesses
    • Remember that discussion about Mr. Rogers earlier? This is a great time to collaborate with fellow local businesses to incentivize and attract shoppers.
  • Make it a party
    • Decorate, put on a killer playlist, offer drinks and snacks. Make your business a place shoppers simply can’t pass by and want to spend time in. Don’t be afraid to go that extra mile. For example, if you own a fashion boutique, put on a mini fashion show to demonstrate your newest line of clothing.
  • Bundle products together
    • Now is the time to promote your products as much as possible. Offer discounts and deals for the purchase of multiple related items. If you own a book shop, offer an incentive for purchasing a book, a writing accessory, and a candle together.
  • Stay open late
    • Black Fridays are busy. There are tons of places shoppers want to try to hit in one day. Give them a little extra leeway, plus appeal to the customers who don’t enjoy the madness of Black Friday mornings by staying open for a few extra hours.
  • Go the extra mile
    • Wrap those purchases up or give a free little gift. Offering something as simple as a free holiday cookie with your logo on it is a great way to show your thanks and get in a little extra brand marketing.


Thanks to our 2019 PRSA Holiday Party sponsors!

From Resume Mishaps to Public Slanders, We Failed Forward at PR Summit

PR Summit: Failing Forward

You can’t appreciate the ups without the downs, the A+ without the F-, the success without the initial failure. We’re human – we make mistakes. Whether you’re a student or the CEO of a company, you’ve made them. What matters is how you channel that momentary defeat into an opportunity to learn, grow and fuel your redemption.

On October 1, we gathered at the Ace Hotel, the perfect raw space, to have a candid, open and honest discussion about the fumbles, mistakes and embarrassing moments of our careers. But the discussion didn’t end there, it led to the subsequent skills, capabilities and confidence we’ve garnered as a result. As we all know, no career path is linear or perfect.

Give a Round of Applause to Our Speakers! 👏

But let’s face it, failing isn’t necessarily fun even if it provides a platform for growth. Failing can be an obscure journey to find the buried treasure. We appreciate our speakers and panelists for accepting the challenge to share their screw-ups with a room full of strangers:

  • Jason Clark, Actor, Comedian, General Manager, Arcade Comedy Theater
  • Dr. John Hull, Professor of Psychology, Bethany College
  • Dan Sprumont, Lead Digital Experience Owner, Highmark Health
  • Lily Whorl, Fellow, Red Havas
  • Stacey Federoff, Communicator and Public Relations Graduate Student, Point Park University
  • Hollie Geitner, Vice President, Culture & Brand Ambassador, WordWrite

Tweet Ya Later

Here’s what some of our attendees had to say about their experience at PR Summit:






Always Fail Forward

For anyone who missed PR Summit: Failing Forward, check out some of the takeaways brought to us by Dr. John Hull:

  • Recognize that failure is an expected part of life; we all fail.
  • We need to separate failing at doing something from feeling like a failure when things don’t go well.
  • Fear of failure is not all bad – it may, in fact, help us improve our planning, thereby reducing the chances of failing.
  • We really can’t do just anything we set our mind on. To think this is to predispose ourselves to failure – and maybe even learned helplessness.
  • Anticipate the optimism/pessimism cycles inherent in working on long-term projects. Early overoptimism can lead to unnecessary failure.
  • Recognize that the way you do something isn’t necessarily the best way for everyone to do it. Your method may succeed for you, but not necessarily for others.
  • Remember self-efficacy and self-image, and how self-protective we are. We need to recognize that, even though we all think we are above average on most things,  sometimes we are, in fact, responsible for failure.
  • Organizational climate matters. A more collaborative (collectivist) climate is generally more supportive than a competitive (individualistic) climate, and can lessen personalizing failure.
  • Let some time pass before confronting failure. Most of us are more likely to be objective rather than self-protective if we wait a bit; in the long run, that will help.
  • Avoid self-handicapping. Give it your best shot – but understand that sometimes even your best shot won’t be good enough.

Thanks again to our 2019 PR Summit sponsor!

Researchscape International is an agile survey-research consultancy and SaaS firm delivering PR surveys, omnibus surveys, automated reporting tools and other research-related services to marketers and agencies. Its surveys are frequently used to drive thought leadership, support content creation and help grow organizations’ public profiles. Custom surveys support product launches, crisis communications, customer satisfaction and more.